A Colorado boy will possibly spend life in prison after admitting to fatally beating a 10-year-old girl with a metal item and leaving her body in a drainage ditch.
Tried as an adult, Aidan Zellmer, now 17, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole. He’s eligible for parole after 40 years—or 30 years if he exhibits good behavior. Zellmer was 15 when he bludgeoned Kiaya Campbell to death after they left Campbell’s father’s home for a nearby shopping center, according to The Denver Post.
Zellmer’s mother was in a relationship with Campbell’s father at the time. Zellmer’s mother reportedly called police minutes before midnight on June 7, 2017, after the pair didn’t return from their outing. Zellmer was found shortly thereafter and told police the 10-year-old vanished while they walked in the rain, according to KMGH.
Zellmer initially claimed they planned to steal Pokemon cards but couldn’t because the cards were locked. Zellmer said it began to rain as they walked to a second store, resulting in an argument as he wanted to wait out the storm while Campbell wanted to go home. He claimed they agreed to wait for the rain to let up before walking home.
KMGH reported that Zellmer told police he lost Campbell while heading home and searched for her for 45 minutes before her father found him. He also denied harming Campbell, who was briefly at the center of an AMBER Alert.
A day after her disappearance, a couple walking off a path discovered Campbell’s body approximately a mile-and-a-half away from where she was reported missing. The Adams County Coroner’s Office found Campbell had been beaten to death, according to KCNC.
Surveillance footage reportedly contradicted Zellmer’s account and authorities said strong DNA evidence linked the teen to the slaying.
The murder weapon was never recovered but prosecutors alleged Zellmer said he used a metal item to strike Campbell over the head five times before leaving her to die.
Campbell was found nude from the waist down and her body exhibited signs of sexual abuse. Prosecutors ultimately dropped sex crime-related charges as part of a plea deal.
With sexual assault charges off the table, The Post reported that Zellmer’s eligible to participate in a rehabilitation program geared towards young people convicted of murder.
The newspaper noted that many details in the case were sealed because it involved juveniles. Zellmer will be in a youth detention center until he turns 18—when he’ll be placed with adults in the Department of Corrections.
[Featured Image: Kiaya Campbell/Thornton Police Department]